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In my late teens and early 20’s, I worked at a few outdoor gear shops. At work, I would outfit people for all kinds of adventures–– from birdwatching trips in Costa Rica, to wilderness backpacking trips, to luxury safaris in Tanzania. As a result, I became very familiar with outdoor brands and gear, and started accumulating it myself as I experimented with different outdoor activities, eventually training to become an outdoor guide.
My gear kit has shifted over the years, and I still have a lot of the stuff I acquired throughout my time as a guide. But as I started working as a photographer, some of my gear stood out from the rest. I also invested in certain photography-specific stuff that made my life a lot easier.
You might not know that behind every shot like this:
Is a temporary home like this:
Or a morning that starts like this:
On this list, you’ll find my most-used and most-valued gear for spontaneous and adventurous travel and outdoor photography, all available on Backcountry.com. Just add your camera.
Psst… If you’re looking for camera gear, you won’t find it here! Head over here after you’re done.
MID-SIZE DUFFEL BAG
Patagonia Black Hole 90L Duffel
I have had my 90L Black Hole Duffel for years, ever since my first summer as an adventure trip leader for teenagers. I have lost track of how many trips this bag has accompanied me on. I have lived out of it on many summer road trips, trade show weekends, and adventures abroad. It’s great for throwing in the back of your car or as a checked bag. The 60L size is probably the maximum size if you are looking for a carry-on size duffel.
Peak Design Everyday 20L Camera Backpack
I have a few go-to camera backpacks, and this is one of them, especially for travel. I love the streamlined look of it, and the customizable inside sections are great to accommodate for different lenses, chargers, or an extra layer. If 20L is a bit small for your needs, this bag also comes in a 30L size. It’s water resistant, but plan on getting a rain cover if you’re going somewhere wet. For organizing cords, chargers, batteries and memory cards, the Peak Design Field Pouch is nice to have.
Peak Design SlideLITE Camera Strap
I honestly didn’t try too many camera straps before coming across Peak Design’s system of interchangeable ones. These straps come with a removeable connection point that makes it extremely easy to attach or detach it. I usually travel with two camera bodies, and have both outfitted with these attachment points to make things quick and easy. I personally use the Leash as well. Honestly I am just totally sold on the design and how all of these products work together. You can see more Peak Design products here.
Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
A travel pillow is a luxury I have come to appreciate. It is so helpful to have on planes or when camping, and doesn’t take up too much space. For me, it’s one of those things that is just worth it.
Eagle Creek USB Universal Travel Adapter Pro
Travel adapters are necessary for charging your stuff abroad. For trips that have you going to multiple countries with different types of outlets, a universal one like this is great. I also bring a power strip from home if I know I will need to charge lots of things. If you’re traveling with friends, they’ll thank you for this!
COMFORTABLE & DURABLE BOOTS
I wear these everywhere, on nearly every trip, and get questions about them constantly! They are a super versatile and comfortable everyday boot that can also be worn on short hikes (for backpacking, I personally prefer hiking boots like these instead).
COZY CAMP SHOES OR SANDALS
I used to be much more of a minimalist when it came to travel and car camping, but I now really value things that make me feel comfortable! A pair of Birks is so good for the end of the day or sitting fireside. If these aren’t your look, I’d encourage you to find a comfortable pair of shoes that you love. Your feet will thank you after a long day of shooting outdoors.
Ray-Ban or Costa
I prefer to invest in quality products, and sunglasses are one of those things. I like my Ray-Bans for travel and exploring cities, but if I need something that will reliably stay on my face for adventurous pursuits, Costa makes great products. As a brand, they also value putting Earth first, and make choices as a company to reflect conservation and reducing waste.
Petzl Tikkina Headlamp / Black Diamond Storm
A headlamp is crucial as a photographer. We’re frequently awake before sunrise or after dark, and we need to be able to see what we are doing with both of our hands free. The Tikkina is a great (and cheap) one that will do the job, but the Storm is more water-resistant and has a hold lock. Either way, I take my batteries out of my headlamp when they are in transit or in my checked bag. Otherwise, they can turn on in your bag and then you get a nice surprise of a dead battery when you need it.
Goal Zero Flip 20
Though sometimes I do disconnect on purpose, most of the time, I can’t be out there with a dead phone or camera. I mainly use these to keep my phone charged, but my cameras are able to be charged via micro-USB, so in a pinch, I can use these for that too.
Arc’teryx Beta SL Jacket / The North Face Venture 2 Jacket
A great rain jacket is important for any outdoor job. I have had my Arc’teryx Beta SL for years and love it, so if you are looking to invest, I really can’t recommend a better one. For a lower-cost option, I have had tons of participants and clients use the Venture jacket and they have been very happy with it.
PACKABLE PUFFY JACKET
Patagonia Ultralight Down Hooded Jacket or Patagonia Nano Puff Hooded Insulated Jacket
A packable puffy jacket is crucial for me, especially because many of my trips involve multiple climates. These jackets are often very warm and don’t take up a ton of space in your bag, relative to a fleece or other types of jackets. I also keep my puffy in my carry-on because planes can be ridiculously cold. Once I get to a warmer place, my jacket just stays packed up in my bag and doesn’t take up much space–– easy.
COMFY CLOTHES FOR LONG TRAVEL DAYS
Standard Hooded Pullover by United by Blue and Adidas Jogger Pant
For flights, around camp, or shooting late at night/early in the morning, comfortable clothes make a huge difference. Over the years, I have found that comfort is something worth prioritizing!
Hydro Flask 21oz Standard Water Bottle
I know this might be an obvious one, but a reusable water bottle comes with me wherever I go. On long-haul flights, I fill up after security before boarding (or if I forget, I ask the flight attendants to fill it up for me). It can be hard to stay hydrated on planes and long road trips, so having water accessible to me at all times is a good thing. I usually bring a Hydro Flask or a Nalgene, keeping in mind that a Nalgene does “sweat” (i.e. produces condensation on the outside).
I know that acquiring gear can feel overwhelming. There is so much information out there, plus, gear isn’t cheap! My advice would be to prioritize what you need and invest in quality gear as you go that will last you a long time. You will figure out what you need and what you don’t. Many of the things I have listed above are items that I have had for years–– items that I will buy again if my current stuff gets too worn out to use anymore!
I hope this list was helpful! I’d love your feedback in the comments below.
For 15% off your first order at Backcountry.com, you can use code ERINS15 at checkout until July 30, 2018. I hope this helps you with your summer gear wishlist!
Special thanks to Tiffiny Costello for help with photos in this post.
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Thank you for this! I’m always looking for good gear guides. There is so much info out there it can be overwhelming to make decisions. I’ll use this as a reference when I’m looking for new gear! I just used my Patagonia 60L Duffel for a 3 month trip and it was the best purchase I made, that thing is so durable.
I really love following your stories and adventures!
Totally hear ya Christina! Glad you found this post helpful. Thank you!
How good are blundstones for outdoors? I’ve always opted for laced boots for such occasions, but maybe I should try something different 😀